NEWS

Greece urges Denktash to rejoin talks

NICOSIA (Combined reports) – Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday urged Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to return to the UN-mediated negotiations aimed at solving the Cyprus problem, so that his people would not miss the opportunity to join the European Union. Cyprus will be part of the European Union; the question is whether Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots are ready, whether Rauf Denktash is ready, to make the necessary moves to become part of this European family, Papandreou said at the start of a two-day visit to Cyprus. The visit comes at a time of heightened activity in Cyprus, with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special envoy, Alvaro de Soto, shuttling between President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash over the past week in a bid to revive the negotiations. Papandreou also took the opportunity to mend some fences, as Cypriot politicians have expressed wariness at the growing number of Greek and Turkish sister cities and the joint Greek-Turkish bid to host the Euro 2008 soccer championships. Some, like Defense Minister Socrates Hasikos, even expressed annoyance at the solitary zeibekiko dance that Papandreou performed before visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in late June, in honor of his father’s memory on the fifth anniversary of his death. Yesterday Papandreou expressed the wish to soon be able to walk from one end of Cyprus to the other without encountering Turkish troops. I think we will all dance then, he said. This reaction is very logical and I understand it fully. But Cyprus remains the most important and vital issue of Greek foreign policy, Papandreou said of the criticism. He said efforts at rapprochement, as well as Cypriot and Turkish hopes of joining the EU had increased international interest in the issue. The movement by both Cyprus and Turkey toward joining the EU provides a historic opportunity for a settlement on Cyprus that will see the dividing wall now splitting the island come down, he said. Sooner or later this issue will either bring the two countries and the two peoples together or separate us, he said. We have already lived in tension for many years and now we have a chance and Turkey needs to take advantage of this or else the responsibility will belong to Turkey and only to Turkey.